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Lesson in Stained Glass

The faces of the disciples glow because of the sunlight coming through them. So it is with people.

An illuminated stained-glass window showing the Last Supper

Ever wonder why so many churches are illuminated by stained-glass windows? Sure, they’re beautiful, with images of Christ, the prophets, scenes of the Bible. My favorite in our church is just a simple one of a descending dove, sign of the Holy Spirit ever since the dove appeared over Jesus when he was baptized. But every work of stained glass also has another message about the spirit.

Think about how light affects any work of art. You can see all the details of a painting or a work of sculpture when the light shines on it. In a museum, a spotlight will illuminate a painting. In nature, the sunlight transforms a landscape with each passing hour, especially this time of year, when the long rays of sun shine on an autumnal scene. A russet maple or golden aspen reflects the light.

But in a stained-glass window, I see the luminous dove or the image of Christ breaking bread with his disciples because the light shines through the glass. The faces of the disciples glow because of the sunlight coming through them.

So it is with people. We are animated, transformed, enlivened by the Spirit shining through us. “I am the light of the world,” Jesus said, “Whoever follows me won’t walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” In another Biblical passage Jesus urged, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.”

The people I pray with and pray for remind me of all those stained-glass images. We allow ourselves, as best we can, to be illuminated by God’s light. It doesn’t bounce off us but shines through us. Those who inspire me most sometimes seem to glow.

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